The US House of Representatives yesterday voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-4-Ariz.) by a vote of 223 to 207.
All of Southwest Florida’s members of the House, Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), voted along with the rest of the Republican caucus not to censure Gosar.
Two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-at large-Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-16-Ill.), voted for the censure. “The glorification of the suggestion of the killing of a colleague is completely unacceptable. And I think that it’s a clear violation of House rules. I think it’s a sad day,” Cheney said to reporters. “But I think that it’s really important for us to be very clear that violence has no place in our political discourse.”
Gosar was censured for posting a Japanese-style anime video showing him attacking and killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY) and President Joe Biden.
While not explaining his Gosar vote, Donalds posted an altered photo of his own on his Twitter feed blaming Biden for high gas prices: “If the WH is wondering why gas prices aren’t going down, all they have to do is look in the mirror,” it states. The photo purports to show Biden looking in a mirror.
Steube and Diaz-Balart did not issue statements explaining their votes.
Following the vote on House Resolution 789, Gosar was required to stand in the Well of the House while the censure resolution was read to him. He was stripped of his assignments on the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a committee of which Donalds is also a member. (The full text of the resolution is at the end of this article.)
In a statement on the floor of the House, Gosar said that he took down the video and “self-censored” himself when he realized it offended members. (The video remains accessible on a variety of platforms.) He compared himself to Alexander Hamilton, who also faced a censure vote. (The Hamilton censure was defeated.)
“President Trump called me his ‘warrior’ for a reason,” Gosar said in a subsequent statement. “My team created a short anime video that depicts, in literary form, the plague of open borders and the people who promote and support it. It is done in a superhero format with good guys and bad guys. It flies through the air. It moves fast. But it does not incite violence. It does not promote violence.”
Prior to the vote Ocasio-Cortez delivered a powerful, 5-minute speech decrying Gosar’s behavior and a defense of it by Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-23-Calif.).
“This vote is not as complex as, perhaps, the Republican leader would like to make folks believe. It is pretty cut and dry: Does anyone in this Chamber find this behavior acceptable? Would you allow depictions of violence against women, against colleagues, in your home? Do you think this should happen on a school board, in a city council, in a church? If it is not acceptable there, why should it be accepted here?” she said.
“So, Madam Speaker, the question I pose to this body in response is: Will we live up to the promises we make our children, that this is a place where we will defend one another, regardless of belief, that our core human dignity matters? If you believe that this behavior is acceptable, go ahead, vote ‘no.’ But if you believe that this behavior should not be accepted, then vote ‘yes.’ It is really that simple.”
There has been violence and even killing among members of Congress in the past. In 1856 Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina savagely attacked Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts at his desk on the floor of the Senate for a speech he gave denouncing slavery. In 1859 anti-slavery Sen. David Broderick of California was killed in a duel with pro-slavery California Chief Justice David Terry.
Censuring Representative Paul Gosar.
Whereas, on November 7, 2021, Representative Paul Gosar posted a manipulated video on his social media accounts depicting himself killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joseph Biden;
Whereas the video was posted on Representative Gosar’s official Instagram account and used the resources of the House of Representatives to further violence against elected officials;
Whereas Representative Gosar issued a statement on November 9, 2021, defending the video as a “symbolic cartoon” and spreading hateful and false rhetoric about immigrants;
Whereas the leadership of the Republican Party has failed to condemn Representative Gosar’s threats of violence against the President of the United States and a fellow Member of Congress;
Whereas the Speaker of the House made clear that threats of violence against Members of Congress and the President of the United States should not be tolerated and called on the Committee on Ethics of the House and law enforcement to investigate the video;
Whereas depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on January 6, 2021;
Whereas violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted;
Whereas a 2016 survey by the Inter-Parliamentary Union found that 82 percent of women parliamentarians have experienced psychological violence and 44 percent received threats of death, sexual violence, beatings, or abduction during their term; and
Whereas the participation of women in politics makes our government more representative and just: Now, therefore, be it
(1) Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona be censured;
(2) Representative Paul Gosar forthwith present himself in the well of the House of Representatives for the pronouncement of censure; and
(3) Representative Paul Gosar be censured with the public reading of this resolution by the Speaker.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the streets of New York in her campaign video, Courage to Change.
Jan. 2, 2020 by David Silverberg
The story is told that Napoleon Bonaparte, when asked which historical generals he most admired, responded: “The ones that won.”
As it is with generals, so it is with political candidates. All the ideals in the world don’t make a difference if you don’t win your election.
It’s no secret for Democrats in Southwest Florida that the odds of winning an election are long. But there are candidates who faced similar odds in other circumstances and overcame them. What did they do right and what lessons can Southwest Floridians learn from them?
This article, the first in a series, will examine some of the mechanics of campaigning. In this one, we’ll look at elements of the ground game, the getting from A to B, or as one person called it, “the hustle.”
Pound the pavement, knock on doors
Perhaps no one is a better embodiment of the successful, come-from-nowhere insurgent than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY), now nearly universally referred to as AOC. On June 26, 2018, the 28-year-old Boston University graduate and sometime bartender defeated Rep. Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent and the fourth-most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives in the Democratic primary.
AOC campaigned early, often and relentlessly—and her supporters did the same.
“In a year of campaigning, Ocasio-Cortez and her volunteers made a hundred and seventy thousand phone calls, knocked on a hundred and twenty thousand doors, and sent a hundred and twenty thousand text messages,” wrote David Remnick in a New Yorker profile. “Ocasio-Cortez spent the last week of the campaign going door to door, hoofing it to the end.”
AOC stops to change shoes as depicted in her campaign video.
“Look, it’s a credit to her. She did a very good job of organizing and in generating a turnout spike among younger voters,” an unnamed political expert told reporter Grace Segers of CityandStateNY.com.
“Something I can’t emphasize enough: There is no replacement for strong volunteer canvass. $3 million dollars is not a replacement for volunteer canvass. If you’re wondering what you can do to change the political situation right now, the answer is ‘volunteer canvass,’” analyst Michael Kinnucan wrote in Jacobinmag.com. “Ocasio-Cortez — a brilliant candidate at the right moment — brought in a whole mess of volunteers from all over the place, from other organizations as well as off the street.”
The same went for volunteers for Doug Jones, the insurgent Democrat who in 2017 defeated Republican Roy Moore for the US Senate seat in Alabama.
Doug Jones celebrates his 2017 senatorial victory in Alabama.
“Roy Moore had no ground game,” Rebecca Rothman, a Doug Jones organizer told Collier County Democrats during a visit to Party headquarters in December 2017. “They were so confident of winning that they didn’t put out any lawn signs or go door-to-door.” In contrast, Jones supporters vigorously went door-to-door, canvassing neighborhoods. The visits were critical even in areas that were regarded as safely Democratic because they helped turn out the vote there.
Closer to home and on a state level, the 2018 special election victory of Margaret Good in State District 72 in Sarasota was also the result of activist mobilization and grassroots, door-knocking efforts.
Good was running in a majority Republican district very similar to those in Lee and Collier counties but overcame her numerical disadvantage with a strong field operation.
“Very early we made a conscious decision to invest in the field organization,” Reggie Cardoza, the director of political operations for Democrats in the Florida House, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “The most effective and efficient way to reach a voter is face to face.”
That kind of campaigning not only introduces the candidate to voters, it expands the electorate; people who may never have voted before can be inspired to go to the polls for the first time.
Margaret Good is now running for Congress in the 16th Congressional District against Republican incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan.
In Southwest Florida, where Democratic candidates have to find new voters in order to win, face-to-face campaigning can start to make the necessary difference—and nowhere is it more important and more effective than when it’s done by the candidate in person.
Keeping tech in its place
Digital technology is seductive. It’s a great ego boost for a candidate or campaign to put up Facebook posts and see the yellow line of page visitors rise and count the numbers of “engagements”—actions taken by visitors—and to believe that this constitutes real progress in convincing voters.
It does constitute progress—but without face-to-face, on the ground introductions and follow-up, it also means nothing.
Before going further, let’s ask a crucial question: What do we mean when we refer to “technology?” Marshall McLuhan, the famous thinker and author of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, wrote that technology is an extension of a human capability by artificial means. In this instance, think of a loudspeaker or amplifier broadcasting or amplifying the sound of a person’s voice.
All recent successful campaigns have used technology, chiefly digital media, in new and creative ways to broaden their messages. Savvy politicians have always realized that new technologies extend their ability to reach voters. What newspapers and telegraphs did for Abraham Lincoln and radio did for Franklin Roosevelt, so Twitter did for Donald Trump—and for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
If Donald Trump uses digital media, especially Twitter, as a weapon, he uses it like a madman waving a club, swinging it insanely in all directions and battering anything and everything around him. AOC uses digital media like a dagger, thrusting it at a focused target and driving it home with the greatest impact.
In addition to her 2018 campaign’s 120,000 text messages and her massive Twitter use, AOC’s campaign produced a moving, beautifully crafted 2-minute video called “The Courage to Change.” It effectively introduced AOC, her platform, the issues and called for action. It cost less than $10,000 to make and it was durable; no matter what was happening in the news, it served over the long term of the campaign. It was never broadcast by local television stations or used in paid advertising but while it was only distributed digitally, it went viral and has had over a million views—and keeps being accessed to this day.
Unfortunately, in Southwest Florida, there is no reliable, publicly-available data on people’s media habits, so it’s very hard for a campaign to determine which platforms people use most and trust. As a result, campaigns can’t focus their messages accordingly.
However, it seems safe to say that given Lee and Collier counties’ high proportion of older people, traditional media (television and print newspapers) and more established social media (Facebook, perhaps Twitter) are probably their leading information sources, as opposed to newer applications like Instagram or Tik-Tok.
In Southwest Florida, Democratic candidates cannot rely on established mainstream media to do its traditional, constitutional job of objectively and comprehensively covering politics and government. Politics is a very low priority for local media and Democratic and progressive activity is usually overlooked, ignored or dismissed (hence the reason for The Paradise Progressive).
As a result, any Democratic campaign in Southwest Florida has to build its own media machine and aggressively push out its message. Fortunately, digital media provides a low-cost means of doing that. (Ironically, various digital platforms’ crackdown on false and misleading political messages also means cutting off a channel for low-financed, insurgent political campaigns.)
But media can only do so much. For those voters—and most importantly, new and potential voters who might not subscribe to digital media channels, nothing can take the place of a knock on the door, a friendly greeting and a handshake, or what’s known in campaign slang as “pressing the flesh.”
There is simply no substitute for committed, energetic, continuous, face-to-face campaigning, especially in person by the candidate.
Pressing the flesh—effectively
Former President Bill Clinton addresses a crowd in Immokalee, Nov. 1, 2016. (Photo: author)
Former Democratic President Bill Clinton is the ultimate “people person.” Those who have met him have commented on his uncanny concentration on the person he’s with, making that person feel like he or she is the most important person in the universe—indeed, the only person in the universe.
Clinton’s people skills were on display on Nov. 1, 2016 in Collier County when he visited Immokalee on a campaign swing for his wife Hillary.
Although it was a small gathering for a man who has addressed massive crowds, Clinton nonetheless treated the audience with the same respect he would show a national convention. He was articulate and intelligent, addressing people as peers. He was unfazed by brief heckling and argued convincingly when challenged, showing full command of facts and figures.
But it was actually after he finished speaking that the complete Clinton treatment was on full display. Clinton just loved being there. An observer could see and feel it. Clinton gave the impression that there was nothing in the world he would rather be doing than shaking hands and posing for selfies with voters in the heat of Immokalee. His enjoyment seemed to just wash over the crowd and radiate outward. These were the people he most wanted to meet and the crowd reciprocated his pleasure. He would have stayed for hours if his entourage hadn’t pulled him away.
Clinton’s famous empathy and focus won him his elections in Arkansas and took him to the White House. It marks him as one of the most effective politicians in American history. And speaking clinically, it’s a key to making personal appearances effective with voters.
It’s also something AOC has, according to Michael Kinnucan: “If you’ve ever been in a room with Ocasio-Cortez, you know what I mean. She has the thing. You don’t need the thing, lots of sitting politicians don’t have it, but when you find it —it’s something else.”
It’s best if a candidate has “the thing” in her or his bones but it can be developed.
“The digital age has turned many of us into multitaskers who are constantly on the lookout for our next dopamine burst of novelty,” according to Geoffrey Tumlin, author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life. Clinton, on the other hand, “has the ability to connect with an audience and then turn around and make the person who was helping with the slideshow feel like they’re the most important person there.”
In the 2014 article “How to Communicate like Bill Clinton” in the magazine Fast Company, Tumlin provided tips on making effective personal appearances. (They are: unplug from technology; seek out conversations; adopt “we-based” communication forms; empathize; and practice.) They’re lessons Southwest Florida Democratic candidates need to learn.
A winning candidate here should enjoy meeting people, being with them, listening to them and winning them over. It’s best if this is instinctive behavior but if it’s not, it can be learned. By the same token, a candidate who is detached, remote, aloof, dismissive or passive will definitely not succeed.
So in-person campaigning, technological savvy and empathy are some of the tactics that will help Democrats win in Southwest Florida. But all of this is nothing without sheer hard work, the willingness and drive to get up every morning and do what needs to be done, to campaign at every moment and opportunity, to inherently want to win over voters.
AOC put this very well after her victory. Her stunning upset had pundits pointing to every possible factor to explain her success, a major one of which was the change in her district from majority white to majority Latino.
But AOC was having none of it. She knew how much work she and her campaign had put into the effort. On June 29, 2018 she tweeted out her reply:
“Some folks are saying I won for ‘demographic’ reasons.
“1st of all, that’s false. We won w/voters of all kinds.
“2nd, here’s my 1st pair of campaign shoes. I knocked doors until rainwater came through my soles.
“Respect the hustle. We won bc we out-worked the competition. Period.”
Pound the pavement; expend the shoe leather; respect the hustle: that willingness to work is the key ingredient if Democrats are ever to win in Southwest Florida.
ICE agents arrest suspects in a 2017 raid. (Photo: DHS)
July 16, 2019 By David Silverberg
Today, July 16, marks the anniversary of one of the biggest law enforcement raids on migrant workers in Southwest Florida history.
It was on this date five years ago that Florida Division of Insurance Fraud investigators raided Incredible Fruit Dynamics in Naples and arrested 105 workers for fraudulent documentation, use of personal identification, identity theft and workers’ compensation fraud.
The anniversary comes as the threat of deportation raids continue to hang over Southwest Florida along with the rest of the country.
The 2014 raid demonstrated the role and extent of undocumented or fraudulently documented workers in the economy of Southwest Florida. It’s a role that continues today.
The company was owned by Alfie Oakes, owner of Oakes farms, Food & Thought organic farm market and Seed to Table.
At the time, authorities made clear that Oakes was not being charged; they were trying to find the source of the false documents. Oakes denied knowing anything about the undocumented workers in his employ. “We definitely knowingly never hired any illegals,” Oakes told The Naples Daily News. “The company hires only people that provide Social Security cards.” He and his brother Eric had purchased the company and kept the workers on, some of whom had been working there for over 10 years.
Though he checked Social Security cards, “If everything looks legit, we’re not allowed by law to challenge them,” he said, referring to discrimination laws. “It’s kind of a fine line when you’re hiring people.”
Southwest Florida has always been a center of cheap migrant labor, given its extensive agricultural sector. In 1960 the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow and CBS News exposed the harsh conditions under which migrant workers labored in the fields in Immokalee in its landmark documentary, “Harvest of Shame.”
This past weekend, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel made their presence known in Immokalee they succeeded in instilling fear—but from a law enforcement perspective, they also gave possible deportees time to flee. Unlike the 2014 raid, which was intended to actually catch wrongdoers, the point of this activity just seemed intended to terrorize.
Commentary: Terrorism vs. enforcement
In his campaign kickoff speech in Orlando on June 18, President Trump accused Democrats of being driven by “hatred, prejudice and rage” but that seems a perfect description of what is driving him and his approach to governing.
In the past, immigration enforcement was guided by an effort to effectively apprehend wrongdoers or suspects, while minimizing disruption but still sending a strong signal.
President Barack Obama’s administration was active in pursuing undocumented migrants who had committed crimes or had deportation orders against them. Between 2009 and 2011, federal authorities deported 385,000 people per year, according to Department of Homeland Security data. In 2012, that hit a high point of 409,000. However, the Obama effort was directed at migrants with criminal records who posed a danger to the community or those with court-ordered removal orders against them. They featured careful intelligence, stealth and discretion.
Despite broad allegations of migrant criminality by Trump, his enforcement efforts seem intended to just showboat, stoke fear and vent his bile against foreigners, particularly those from south of the US border.
This comes at the same time as the president’s latest eruptions on Twitter against Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-5-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-13-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-7-Mass.). No other word will serve to describe his insults— it’s racism, pure and simple. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. From the day Trump announced his candidacy his racism, xenophobia and cruelty have been on full display. The only difference now is that he has no restraints and no filters, there’s just pure hatred, prejudice and rage.
In Southwest Florida, the member of Congress whose district encompasses Immokalee is Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.). When asked about the possibility of raids, arrests and deportations, all he would say was, “Until we have a real fix of a system that is totally broken and has gotten worse, these things are going to continue to happen,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s not an issue of what I support or not. ICE is going to follow the law and I expect them to follow the law and to do so in a way that’s honorable.”
Meanwhile, Diaz-Balart’s neighbor to the west, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has introduced legislation to cut legal immigration by half and make asylum-seeking more difficult both by shortening deadlines and restricting applications to ports of entry. Rooney’s legislation (House Resolution 481) doesn’t go as far as the administration, which is proposing a rule to prevent asylum applications at the border at all and only in the countries refugees are fleeing.
Diaz-Balart is right: The immigration system is broken and needs fixing. But anti-immigration hardliners have consistently sunk past efforts at bipartisan solutions and this president and his administration haven’t put forward any sane solutions other than a brick-and-mortar wall and the president’s “hatred, prejudice and rage” as expressed in cruelty and callousness toward refugees and asylum-seekers.
Democratic members of Congress and immigration advocacy groups are suing to prevent the administration’s proposed new rule and are demonstrating against the administration’s anti-immigrant actions.
This is the battle will be decided in the 2020 election.
As a side note, it’s worth following up on the Alfie Oakes story. On Aug. 13, 2018 the Naples Daily News reported that Oakes Farms Food & Distribution Services had been awarded a $46.8 million contract by the US Defense Logistics Agency to supply food to the military.
Six days later, Oakes posted a screed on Facebook against “the Democratic party recently morphing into all out socialism” and complaining that “current events are censored from the MSM [mainstream media] to support their one world order narrative.”
“The puppeteers that orchestrate the MSM, most of our universities, the [Democratic National Committee] along with the Obama administration have been pushing for a one world order that would ultimately destroy the opportunity for the individual,” he wrote. “We must with all our might reject socialism and adhere to the genius of the christian [sic] principles that our founding father so masterfully created (through the hand of GOD in my opinion) so that we may continue to be the beacon of the world for individual prosperity and freedom.”
It will be interesting to see if there are any raids this time at Oakes Farms.
The idea and its title made it into official usage, becoming part of then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign platform and serving as the title of a United Nations report on renewable energy. Its essence was embodied in legislation in the 2010 American Clean Energy and Security Act (better known as cap-and-trade bill), which died that year in the US Senate.
Though the idea waxed and waned in popularity, it appeared in the campaigns of some Democrats running in last year’s midterm elections. Once Democrats won the House of Representatives, environmental activists decided to make a major push for its passage, with the goal of ending all carbon emissions in ten years. The leading Green New Deal organization was the Sunrise Movement of mainly young, grassroots activists.
On Nov. 13, those activists demonstrated in Washington, DC and about 150 sat in at the offices of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), soon to be Speaker of the House, demanding the Deal’s immediate implementation.
Enter Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY) has become the face of the Green New Deal. She’s an insurgent Democrat who defeated 10-term Democratic congressman Joe Crowley in her district’s 2018 primary and then won the general election.
Passionate, articulate, telegenic and at 29 the youngest member ever elected to Congress, Ocasio-Cortez was a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and like him, calls herself a Democratic Socialist.
Ocasio-Cortez addressed the demonstrators at Pelosi’s office. She demanded creation of a Green New Deal select committee in the House. Pelosi didn’t support that demand, instead creating a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, headed by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-14-Fla.), a longtime environmental activist representing the Tampa area.
Though thwarted in her initial aim, Ocasio-Cortez proceeded to pull all the ideas swirling around the Green New Deal and put them into coherent, legislative form. On Feb. 7 she introduced House Resolution (HR) 109, “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” (The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) as Senate Resolution 59.)
The introduction of HR 109 takes the Green New Deal from possibility to proposal. It now has specific provisions and actions and delineates a specific path to implementation.
The Green New Deal and Southwest Florida
HR 109 does not mention Florida by name and there are no provisions specific to the state or to its southwest region. Nonetheless, it has broad implications given Southwest Florida’s environmental sensitivity and past disasters.
Although the Everglades are never mentioned, Everglades restoration could receive a major boost from the Green New Deal program.
The bill calls for “mitigating and managing the long-term adverse health, economic, and other effects of pollution and climate change, including by providing funding for community-defined projects and strategies” and among these are “restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency.”
This precisely describes current Everglades restoration projects including the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the “wetlaculture” concept put forward by Prof. Bill Mitsch of Florida Gulf Coast University. These ideas stand to get a major boost if the bill passes and the Florida congressional delegation aggressively pursues the resulting benefits.
The bill calls for “building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather, including by leveraging funding and providing investments for community-defined projects and strategies” and “reducing the risks posed by climate impacts.”
This could very directly benefit Southwest Florida in its efforts to fortify itself against hurricanes, wildfires and sea level rise. The region would be in line to receive extensive federal support for infrastructure and protection improvements. If Everglades restoration can be presented as a climate change mitigating initiative, Florida would have a significant claim on federal support. Federal funding might even benefit individual homeowners in the form of tax credits and incentives to strengthen their houses.
The bill aims to meet 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including renewable energy and new capacity.
For Florida that means a big boost for solar power. The Sunshine State is already taking the initiative to increase solar capacity but passage of the Green New Deal would result in significant federal support for these efforts.
The bill calls for the federal government to work collaboratively with farmers and ranchers to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible. Given Southwest Florida’s extensive agricultural sector, farmers could see grants and incentives to make their operations more energy efficient.
Beyond these very specific local benefits the bill’s support for the renewable energy industry, housing, health and employment would affect every American. And, of course, protecting the environment, keeping it livable and preventing catastrophic climate change affects all life on the planet.
Analysis: What happens next
Controversy and unanswered questions are swirling around the Green New Deal and the bill that embodies it.
The biggest of these is how it will be funded. Ocasio-Cortez has dodged the question, saying that the United States found a way to fund the original New Deal, World War II and the space program and will find a way to do it this time. It’s a blithe but unsatisfying answer—there were extensive debates about paying for those initiatives at the time.
The proposal’s scope and ambition is breathtaking. As written it would really mean a reordering of society and a complete re-fit of the nation’s built environment, energy and transportation. Its practicality within a ten-year time frame is questionable, to say the least. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has avoided endorsing it, as demonstrated by her refusal to appoint a select committee on that specific topic.
Predictably, the conservative and Republican reaction has varied from hysteria and paranoia to scorn and dismissal, starting with President Donald Trump.
“I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with their Green New Deal. It would be great for the so-called ‘Carbon Footprint’ to permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military – even if no other country would do the same. Brilliant!” he tweeted on Feb. 9.
From a purely legislative standpoint HR 109 has a long way to go. It started out strong, with 68 cosponsors, which means there’s hefty support for it in the House. However, it has been referred to 11 different committees and making its way through all those committees will take time. While any one committee could derail it, the numerous referrals also mean it will get broad consideration throughout the House. Still, it seems unlikely to reach the floor during the two-year span of the 116th Congress.
If events take their normal course, the proposal will be steadily whittled down and delayed during the legislative process. If it even makes it to a vote by the full House and passes, it is highly unlikely to pass in the Senate. If by some miracle it passed both houses and landed on the president’s desk, it seems extremely improbable—one never wants to use the word “impossible” but this is close—that Trump would sign it into law.
But despite its radical solutions, unanswered questions and the improbability of its enactment, the Green New Deal should not be dismissed.
The political importance of the Green New Deal
Some of the demonstrators protesting in front of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office on Nov. 13.
The Green New Deal is important as an aspiration, a rallying cry and a set of principles that can inspire Democrats, progressives and environmentalists. It gives coherence to progressive principles and cements those principles in a foundation of environmentalism. It far outshines the weak and anemic proposals on any subject made to date by the current Democratic leadership.
Further, the Green New Deal is likely to stand as a goal and aspiration that may last for decades, rather like the abolition of slavery or pursuit of women’s suffrage. It is not merely a proposal, it is now a movement and movements have their own dynamics.
The Green New Deal could provide common principles to Democratic candidates and the party as it begins pulling together its platform for the 2020 presidential race.
Equal and opposite reaction
The Green New Deal also has to be understood as an equal and opposite reaction to Donald Trump’s brute anti-environmentalism.
The Paris Climate Agreement represents the moderate course in climate change response. It was a phased, consensus approach to combating climate change where everyone shared the pain of restraint but gained the benefit of a livable planet and pledged to take reasonable steps to pursue reasonable goals. It was painstakingly negotiated and at the time of its signing included all the nations of the world but two—Nicaragua (which felt it didn’t go far enough) and Syria (which was in the midst of a civil war).
Donald Trump didn’t just withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement and leave the US isolated and alone in the world. By his scorn and vitriol and sheer resistance to science and dismissal of environmentalism, he seems not to care about the fate of the planet or humanity—indeed, every day he proves that he truly does not care about anyone but himself. Given the powers invested in him, he truly could destroy the world.
This kind of attitude fuels the urgency of the Green New Deal’s advocates, especially the young ones. There’s a religious sense of imminent apocalypse, hence the Green New Deal’s short timelines and broad sweep.
Further fueling their urgency was the Fourth National Climate Assessment by the US Global Change Research Program, which warned of disastrous consequences if the causes of climate change weren’t addressed.
The battle to come
While the argument over the Green New Deal is intense now, it’s going to become exponentially more intense as the nation moves toward the 2020 presidential election. Already, Trump and his supporters are lumping the Green New Deal under a socialist label and starting to paint their campaign as a crusade against socialism.
On the other side, though, more extreme Green New Deal supporters see their cause as the only alternative to destruction of the planet.
Here in Southwest Florida the effects of climate change can be felt all around. Its presence should be undeniable, although the entire conservative, Republican establishment, following Trump’s line, continues to deny it—and will no doubt continue to deny it as the storms blow ashore and the water laps up to their chins.
The problem of climate change should be obvious to all. In the Green New Deal a solution has been proposed. Although imperfect it is now the only proposal on the table. Since Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, no other alternative has been offered.
Of course, there is always the option of doing nothing. In this case, that option could prove fatal.